I volunteered at an archive in Lawrence, MA for a while (I actually did a for-credit internship there, as well). For those who aren’t familiar with Lawrence, it’s an old industrial city situated north of Boston on the Merrimack River. Nicknamed the “Immigrant City,” it grew in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries as immigrants came from many different countries to work in the mills that were built there. It’s population and influence declined after peaking in the first few decades of the twentieth century, and is now one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts. For a small city, it actually has some really fascinating history, including a prominent workers’ strike in 1912.
I processed two collections during my time at the archive: one was a family collection that included materials from throughout the twentieth century, and the other was a collection of records from a group that promoted cultural events in Lawrence during the first decade of the twenty-first century.
I really enjoyed working at this archive, although various other factors in my life have prevented me from being able to go there anymore. One question that hardly occured to me while I worked there, but lingers in my mind now, is the way that the archive is handling more recent history. Over the last several decades, Lawrence has become home to a large Latino population, including many immigrants from the Domincan Republic. It is predominantly Latino today, and many of the residents speak Spanish as a first language. I eventually began to notice, however, that the archive didn’t seem to be keeping track of many Spanish-language materials. All of the clippings that they took from the daily newspapers were from English-language papers, and I can’t recall any Spanish-language collections being worked on while I was there. Part of this could be due to the fact that more recent materials simply haven’t yet been donated to the archive, but I also wonder about the approach that the leadership of the archive is taking in order to acquire Spanish-language items. I should try to get in touch with them again someday, and talk about it. Perhaps there are initiatives being taken of which I’m not aware. It just doesn’t make sense to me for a primarily Latino, Spanish-speaking city to have an archive that contains almost exlusively English-language materials.